Minimum sentence

The court has a specified minimum length of sentence which must be imposed.

A discretionary sentence is one of the three different types of custodial sentence.

Mandatory Sentence:

These are used by the court when a particular sentence is to be imposed, for example in the case of murder, the mandatory sentence would be for life.

Discretionary Sentence:

These are used by the court when there is a choice regarding the imposition of a custodial sentence.  The court can also decide how long the custodial sentence should last. They are imposed at the 'discretion' of the court. The Power of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 states that a discretionary sentence should not be passed unless:

(a) the offence, or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it, was so serious that only such a sentence can be justified for the offence; or

(b) where the offence is a violent or sexual offence, that only such a sentence would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm.

Minimum Sentence:

The court has a specified minimum length of sentence which must be imposed. The length of the sentence can be no less than this minimum but can be longer.

Offenders aged 21 or over have to serve their sentence in prison, those between the age of 14 and 20 are sent to detention and training centres to serve their sentence. If the offender is aged between 10 and 14 he would only be sent to a detention centre to serve his sentence if he was a persistent or serious offender. (Crime and Disorder Act 1998)

Parliament has introduced some minimum sentences for some serious offences and these will be imposed unless there are exceptional circumstances:

  • a minimum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment for a third Class A drug trafficking offence and three years for a third domestic burglary;
  • a minimum sentence of five years for certain firearms offences; and
  • a minimum sentence of five years for using someone to mind a weapon.

Mandatory and Minimum Custodial Sentences: Legal Guidance CPS

Six-month minimum sentence proposed for repeat acid offences

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